Tim Hortons looks beyond hockey with Shawn Mendes

The QSR chain partners with the singer-songwriter to find a different way to express "Canadian values."


Tim Hortons is using the off season to step out of the hockey arena, announcing a new partnership with singer-songwriter Shawn Mendes ahead of his homecoming show in Toronto next week.

The restaurant chain’s hockey roots have been an indelible part of the brand since its founding, and recent marketing efforts suggest the sport will remain central to its strategy for some time. But looking beyond those roots, Tims has launched a campaign celebrating a musician whose rise to fame and global reach belie his modest Canadian upbringing.

In a new spot created by Miami-based agency Gut, Shawn Mendes is portrayed as the small-town boy from Pickering, Ont. who frequently visits the local Tim Hortons. He grows up aspiring to become a major figure on the music scene, a dream that has played out faster than he imagined and one that will culminate with his biggest-ever show at the Rogers Centre on Sept 6. The video, called “Home is Where the Heart is,” ends with Mendes returning to the hometown Tims he visited growing up.

The 20-year-old’s upcoming show, which sold out in minutes after tickets became available last year, will be his first stadium concert and conclude a 33-show North American tour, making it the “right moment” to celebrate his love for Canada and his love for the brand, says Paloma Azulay, global head of creative at Tim Hortons.

In Canada, Tim Hortons does not need greater brand awareness, Azulay notes. Rather, the strategy behind the celebrity alignment has more to do with finding a new way of expressing the “Canadian values” he represents. Azulay says the young-star has a reputation for respecting fans, making himself available for selfies and generally being a good ambassador for the country.

Tims has prepared a major push behind the partnership, with the spot running on TV and social, plus OOH assets in Toronto and Montreal. In addition, the company is rolling out limited-edition cups with Mendes on them from Aug. 30 through Sept. 6, as well as ceramic cups at some locations in the Greater Toronto Area.

Azulay says working with Mendes does not represent a shift in target customer for the brand. Rather, the partnership is about continuing on recent efforts of reaching everyone and increasing brand relevance among all age groups, including Gen Z and millennials.